Old Bay Restaurant to close after 30 years
The Old Bay Restaurant, located at 61 Church St. in New Brunswick, is closing down after 30 years of serving New Orleans style seafood to city residents and students at Rutgers.
The Blackthorn Irish Pub and Restaurant will replace the famous, local restaurant in March 2018.
Anthony Tola, the owner of Old Bay and co-founder of Stuff Yer Face, is retiring after running the restaurant for 30 years.
Tommy Brennan, the general manager of Old Bay, has worked closely with Tola over the years. He has been working at Old Bay for more than a decade and understands why it resonates with so many students, he said.
“I feel like the Old Bay (has) been popular because it's off the beaten path, and it’s kind of the more grown-up, fun bar,” Brennan said. “From the live entertainment, which we’re kind of famous for I guess, to the great craft beers — there’s always something going on here from Tuesdays through Saturday as far as entertainment goes.”
Brennan said the idea to start a seafood restaurant came from the two owners joking about how there was never any good seafood in New Jersey. After the two spent time in Louisiana, they fell in love with the culture as well as the food. They decided they wanted to bring that same authenticity and energy back home with them and years later, Old Bay was created.
He said that since the restaurant announced that it is closing, they have been receiving floods of phone calls from old students who want to visit one last time. From people who would drink there when they were in college, to people who had family dinners there, Old Bay has been special to many.
One man told Brennan that Old Bay was special to him because he met his wife there. The whole staff has been receiving a whole lot of love from the community since they announced their closing, Brennan said.
The last day that people are able to make dinner reservations at Old Bay is Dec. 22. On Saturday, Dec. 23, Old Bay is holding its big farewell party consisting of live music, a marching jazz band around Kilmer Square and a buffet.
“It’s going to be a really amazing night,” Brennan said. “Basically we’re going to eat and drink until everything is gone, lock the doors then say goodnight for the very last time.”
The Blackthorn Irish Pub and Restaurant, opening in New Brunswick, is the second of its kind. The first one is located in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Carolyn Rhoades, the marketing manager of I.P.E. Holdings LLC, is overseeing development of the new restaurant. She said students can check out the restaurant's Facebook and Instagram pages to spread the word and leave feedback.
“We’ll definitely be catering to what the Rutgers crowd likes as we do a more extensive analysis on the market,” Rhoades said. “Suggestions are welcome and we encourage students to give us a say in what they would like to see.”
Rhoades said that Blackthorn will continue to host live shows for local performers just like its predecessor. On Fridays, they will host live music and on Saturdays, David S, a New Jersey DJ featured on 92.3, will perform.
The restaurant is focused on authentic Irish cuisines, such as Ruben skins, chicken Murphy and homemade mac and cheese. The restaurant will also include a series of Irish brews.
Rhoades said the menu will consist of traditional Irish foods with its own twist. The chef is still crafting the final menu.
She said that the company is very aware of the high standards Rutgers has for food and understands how popular and beloved Old Bay was to the people at this school. They are going to keep the old customers of Old Bay in mind and cater to them, as well as add some new surprises.
“I think we’re going to be a great addition to the Rutgers community and they’re definitely going to be satisfied, and we’re going to offer them something unlike anything else at Rutgers,” Rhodes said.